Lamentations 4:8
Their visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick.
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(8) Their visage is blacker . . .—We look, as it were, on the two pictures: the bloom and beauty of health, the wan, worn, spectral looks of starvation.

4:1-12 What a change is here! Sin tarnishes the beauty of the most exalted powers and the most excellent gifts; but that gold, tried in the fire, which Christ bestows, never will be taken from us; its outward appearance may be dimmed, but its real value can never be changed. The horrors of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem are again described. Beholding the sad consequences of sin in the church of old, let us seriously consider to what the same causes may justly bring down the church now. But, Lord, though we have gone from thee in rebellion, yet turn to us, and turn our hearts to thee, that we may fear thy name. Come to us, bless us with awakening, converting, renewing, confirming grace.Their visage ... - Their form (their whole person, see 1 Samuel 28:14)... as in the margin. See Job 30:30.

It is withered, it is become like a stick - Or, It has become dry like a piece of wood.

8. blacker than … coal—or, "than blackness" itself (Joe 2:6; Na 2:10).

like a stick—as withered as a dry stick.


They that in the prosperity of the city were fair, plump, and ruddy, look now black for want of fit nourishment, and through sorrow and grief; insomuch that those who before knew them by their countenances, garbs, and habits, did not now know them. And by reason of the famine (for he speaketh with relation to the famine during the siege) they are almost starved, their skin is withered and hard, and even sticketh to their bones.

Their visage is blacker than a coal,.... Or, "darker than blackness"; or, "dark through blackness" (y); by reason of the famine, and because of grief and trouble for themselves and their friends, which changed their complexions, countenances, and skins; they that looked before as pure as snow, as white as milk, as clear as pearls, as polished as sapphire, now as black as charcoal, as blackness itself:

they are not known in the streets; not taken notice of in a distinguished manner; no respect shown them as they walk the streets, as used to be; nay, their countenances were so altered, and their apparel so sordid, as not to be known by their friends, when they met them in public:

their skin cleaveth to their bones; have nothing but skin and bone, who used to be plump and fat:

it is withered, it is become like a stick; the skin wrinkled and shrivelled up, the flesh being gone; and the bone became like a stick, or a dry piece of wood, its moisture and marrow being dried up.

(y) "obscurior ipsa nigredine", Tigurine version; "magis quam nigredo vel carbo", Vatablus; "prae caligines", Calvin; "ex nigredine", Piscator.

Their {e} visage is blacker than a coal; they are not known in the streets: their skin cleaveth to their bones; it is withered, it is become like a stick.

(e) They who were before most in God's favour are now in greatest abomination to him.

8. blacker than a coal] lit. as mg. darker than blackness.

Their skin cleaveth to their bones] Cp. Job 19:20.

Verse 8. - Their visage is blacker than a coal; rather, their appearance is darker than blackness - one of the hyperboles which seem to indicate that the poem was not written at the very moment of the calamity described (comp. Job 30:30). Not known in the streets. Another point of contact with the Book of Job (Job 2:12). Their skin, etc. Again we must compare the lamentations of Job (Job 19:20; Job 30:30). Psalm 102:5 may also be quoted; for the second half of the verse is toe short unless we insert "to my skin" before "to my flesh." Lamentations 4:8The second strophe. - Lamentations 4:7, Lamentations 4:8. The picture of the misery that has befallen the princes. נזירים, princes, prop. separati, here non voto (Nazarites) sed dignitate, as Nolde appropriately remarks; see on Genesis 49:26. זכך is used, Job 15:15; Job 25:5, of the brightness of the heaven and the stars; here it is used of female beauty. Thenius would refer "pure (or bright) as snow and milk" to the white clothing, "because the Orientals have not milk-white faces." But the second member irrefragably shows that the reference is to bodily form; and for the very reason adduced by Thenius, a comparatively whiter skin than is commonly met with is esteemed more beautiful. So also does Sol 5:10, "My friend is white and red," show the high esteem in which beauty was held (Gerlach). אדם, to be reddish. עצם, "bone," for the body (pars pro toto). פּנינים, not (white) pearls, but (red) corals. "The white and the red are to be understood as mixed, and shading into one another, as our popular poetry speaks of cheeks which 'like milk and purple shine' " (Delitzsch on Job 28:18, Clark's translation). "Sapphire their form" (גּזרה, prop. cut, taille, of the shape of the body). The point of the comparison is not the colour, but the luminosity, of this precious stone. Once on a time the princes glittered so; but (Lamentations 4:8) now their form is dark as blackness, i.e., every trace of beauty and splendour has vanished. Through hunger and want their appearance is so disfigured, that they are no longer recognised in the streets (חוּצות, in contrast with "at home," in their own neighbourhood). "The skin sticks to the bones," so emaciated are they; cf. Psalm 102:4; Job 19:20. צפד, ἅπ. λεγ., to adhere firmly. The skin has become dry (יבשׁ) like wood.
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